Why Jews Quote

Abstract

Quotation is a feature of cultures throughout history and across continents. The purpose of this article is to present a phenomenology of quotation in Jewish culture, where it has had pride of place for millennia. Following a brief historical overview, six functions are discussed: quotation as 1) an engagement with tradition; 2) a means of resuscitating the quoted source; 3) legitimization of the quoter; 4) enrichment and embellishment of a text or oral performance; 5) an act of community-building; and 6) an incantatory act, a means of effecting change. In conclusion, the article suggests that quotation performs a rhapsodic function in the original sense of sewing together fragments in the creation of a thick fabric. Through quotation the Jew is in conversation with past, present, and future.

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